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The rise of technology

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat in the front row in a courtroom in Prince George’s County District Court, the police detective I next to me nudged me slightly and pointed to the bailiff who looked at me sternly as he repeated, “All cell phones must be turned off while in the courtroom!” Unfortunately, as noted in a previous post, Rule 16-110 has no provision for using an electronic device in the courtroom when not immediately before the judge. If we cannot use an electronic device any other time, there’s almost no point in having it. While I heard bailiff before, I didn’t even consider that what he was saying applied to me because I was using my BlackBerry and its use as a phone might only be the third or fourth most useful feature. I don’t think of it as a “cell phone.” In fact, like many, my “smartphone” has become an extension of the office. When I was interrupted in the courtroom I happened to be checking my calendar for available trial dates. But I could just as easily have been searching for opposing counsel’s contact number, checking a daily task list or texting some information to a colleague standing in for me in another courtroom. Not only do these tools make attorneys more efficient but they also improve the efficiency of the courts. And, if you didn’t already know, smartphones can be used to perform a lot more: legal research; reading, managing and editing documents; accessing files; attending meetings remotely; dictating and sending memos; and running background checks. The list grows daily as smartphone and tablet apps are being developed that increasingly transform your smartphone into something else entirely.

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One comment

  1. A few months ago we obtained a victory with a Rule that merely allows us to bring “cell phones” into Courthouses. Unfortunately, few people understand the difference between cell phones and smartphones and indeed, it is unfortunate that our devices are called “smartphones” because they are computers first and telephones last. The least important but most annoying feature to a Court official is the phone aspect of a smartphone. We now need to have the Rule amended to permit unfettered use of our “smartphones” with the volume muted.

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